Home/ Politics / Policy/  Tiger reserves planning safaris to bring in more tourists, revenues

New Delhi: India may soon have tiger safaris adjoining all its major tiger reserves.

The safaris, which will be set up either in buffer areas of tiger reserves or on land adjacent to them, will not only take the pressure of tourists off core areas of tiger reserves but will also serve to sustain interest as people will be assured of a glimpse of the big cat.

But the benefit that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a nodal body for the protection and conservation of tigers in India, is most interested in is that they will bring in much-needed additional revenue, which can be used for the welfare of the endangered species.

“We are developing a standard operating procedure (SOP) that will guide the reserves on setting up such safaris. The SOP is expected to be ready within a couple of months," said an NTCA official who did not wish to be named.

The first meeting of the NTCA on this issue is expected to take place on Wednesday.

The official said popular tiger reserves such as Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand), Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh) and Ranthambore National Park (Rajasthan), among others, could be the first to get such tiger safaris.

According to NTCA officials, the 10 most visited tiger reserves in India get an average of 150,000-200,000 visitors a year. Corbett, among the most popular, saw 245,000 visitors in 2014-15.

According to estimates of tiger population released by the environment ministry in January 2015, India today is home to 70% of the world’s wild tigers. The report said there are around 2,226 tigers in 48 tiger reserves in the country, compared to 1,706 in 2010 and 1,411 in 2006.

Project Tiger was launched in 1973 to check the dwindling tiger population in India.

“Currently, many visitors go back unsatisfied from reserves when they don’t see tigers, and also entry is limited every day. Safaris will ensure that visitors get to see tigers," said the official cited earlier.

Besides, tiger reserves are not open all-year round for visitors. A majority of them remain closed for four to five months during the monsoon.

This is not the first time that NTCA has advocated setting up tiger safaris. The body had published the National Tiger Conservation Authority (Normative Standards for Tourism Activities and Project Tiger) Guidelines in 2012, which mooted the idea.

Tiger safaris can be established in the buffer zones of tiger reserves. Interpretation and awareness centres could also be supported in such buffer areas to foster awareness and elicit public support.

The management of such centres will be through the respective panchayati raj institutions, the guidelines had said.

“These safaris, though forests, would be fenced. They would be inhabited by tigers that are either old or have recuperated after injuries or illness. They would address two issues—first, that old tigers would get proper care and protection, and second, that territorial conflicts could be avoided," said the NTCA official cited earlier.

But experts such as K. Ullas Karanth, one of India’s best-known tiger conservationists, do not agree with the plan.

“I don’t think this is a good idea. After the safari, people will still go inside tiger reserves. Legally, one cannot ban people from doing that. This will basically be a zoo kind of place and will result in a lot of money being spent. So, I don’t see any logic in it," Karanth said.

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Updated: 13 Oct 2015, 02:56 AM IST
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